The Silent Sam statue honoring soldiers who fought for the Confederacy on the campus of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s was torn down by protestors during a rally. The statue, erected in 1913 with the support of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, has been a divisive issue on the college’s campus for years. This rally began as a support gathering for Maya Little, a Ph.D. student at the university, who, in April, defaced the Silent Sam statue with ink and her own blood and is now facing criminal charges.
About two hours into the rally, Silent Sam was brought down through a haze of smoke bombs. University Chancellor, Carol L. Folt and University of North Carolina System leaders stated that “while they respect that protestors have the right to demonstrate, they do not have the right to damage state property.”
Harry Smith, the new chair of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, stated that “neither UNC-Chapel Hill nor the UNC System have the legal authority to unilaterally relocate the Silent Sam statue. Thus, the board has no plans to take any action regarding the monument at this time, and we will await any guidance that the North Carolina Historical Commission may offer.”
Chapel Hill campus police issued arrest warrants for three people, not affiliated with the university, who were involved in toppling the statue. Thomas C. Goolsby, University of North Carolina System board member and former Republican state law maker, said that North Carolina law requires the monument be returned to Chapel Hill campus within 90 days of removal. According to North Carolina law, state-owned monuments cannot be removed or altered in any way without the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission. The commission recently rejected a request to remove three Confederate monuments from the State Capitol in Raleigh.
Six days after the statue was brought down, seven people were arrested at a rally where both supporters and opponents of the statue clashed.